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Guest Commentary: How the city of Cape Coral hires department heads

By Staff | Jun 10, 2021

Rob Hernandez

This is in response to a June 4, 2021 letter to the editor written by Lynn Rosko entitled “This is how the city hires department heads?”

Ms. Rosko questioned the City of Cape Coral’s process in selecting a new police chief along with the cost associated with hiring a search firm to recruit and assess applicants for the position. Under the council-manager form of government established by our City Charter, the city manager is responsible for the hiring of department directors and most city employees. In response to Ms. Rosko’s statement that simply picking an internal candidate for police chief was not good enough, she is absolutely right — it was not good enough. As the City Manager, it is my professional duty to conduct a fair and unbiased process when selecting individuals to fill positions with the City. Hiring decisions must be made on skills, abilities, qualifications, training, past performance, and organizational “fit.” My job is to pick the best person for the job whether they are already working for the City or not. Picking a new police chief was no different. All candidates for the job had to prove they were ready and the right fit for Cape Coral. Candidates went through several interviews and performance assessments conducted by former or currently serving police chiefs from across this state — at least 15 of them. Behavioral and leadership evaluations conducted by the search firm were also part of the process. Once the list of finalists was pared down to three, they were interviewed by the City’s leadership team. As it turns out, the person selected, Anthony Sizemore, proved he was the best individual for the position; he earned the title — it was not preordained nor was the job handed to him solely because he had worked for the City for a period of time.

Ms. Rosko then questioned the recent hiring of the director of Financial Services, Mark Mason (Mr. Mason previously served in that capacity several years ago). She brought up a 2006 audit conducted by the State’s Auditor General which covered a period of time prior to Mr. Mason’s previous tenure as the Financial Services Director with the City. It is important to note that the City disagreed with all but five of the audit’s findings. Ms. Rosko also believes that Mr. Mason intentionally mislead the then City Council when adopting a budget amendment. I have reviewed the information relating to the situation she referenced and conclude there was no effort to mislead anyone. I believe some did not fully understand the information that was presented. It can be complicated.

We are required to follow strict budgeting and accounting standards that are complicated and different from non-governmental organizations. Our process to adopt and amend the budget is a lengthy and fully transparent one. A budget is a living document and it is amended periodically to account for changing economic conditions, unforeseen expenses and unanticipated revenue. An independent citizen’s review panel reviews the budget each year and makes recommendations to the City Council. There is a separate audit committee made up of residents that also overlooks the City’s finances and provides independent recommendations to the City Council. Our financials are audited each year by an independent financial auditor as required by law, the results published publicly and posted on our website. Following the end of the fiscal year we publish the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report. Nothing is hidden.

Residents, businesses, and taxpayers should have every confidence in our City’s government, its financial processes, its transparency, and in its professional and dedicated employees.

As they say, let’s keep looking out of windshield rather than the rear view mirror.

— Rob Hernandez is the city manager for the city of Cape Coral.